Sunday, April 3, 2011

40 Days of Artists: Rubens

Peter Paul Rubens was a Flemish master who combined the great painting traditions of Flemish realism with Italian Renaissance, and the result was nothing short of outstanding.  Rubens is renown for his painting of the human figure, particularly that of women.  He was known for choosing the most voluptuous and curvy-figured women for his models because they were the ideal figure in the Baroque period.  To this day, women with such figures are known as beautifully "Rubenesque."
He was known to be quite a methodical painter, and was fueled by learning from the great masters of and before his time.  Some of his influences were Raphael and Titian, as well as those contemporary to his time such as Van Dyck and Jacob Jordaens.  In terms of Italian masters, he tended to focus his attention to the Roman and Venetian masters, but he still felt a strong influence of the classical method, and he is best remembered for his religious and mythological themes.
Rubens began his training in Antwerp at the age of 10.  He spent some years in Rome as well, learning and gaining influence from the works of Titian and Tintoretto, as well as the Carracci brothers.  After his period in Rome, he returned to Antwerp, where he created some of the greatest pieces of his career.  One in particular was an altarpiece for the cathedral of St. Walburga's called The Raising of the Cross.  Being as methodical as he was, Rubens was able to create many works in an efficient amount of time and probably had a very well organized studio and group of apprentices, so demand for his work was high.  He also collaborated with some of his contemporaries like Van Dyck.
Rubens certainly had one of the greatest reputations of any western master.  His influence spread throughout Europe beyond his humble beginning in Antwerp from Italy to Spain and France - probably because he received commissions from all of these places and from some of the highest sources, and his work continued to play a crucial role in the influence of contemporary to future masters in these areas.

Peter Paul Rubens
The Raising of the Cross
oil on panel
460 x 340 cm.

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